Hankin Ridge – Tsulton River section

This section of the VI Trail links the route from the Bonanza Range at the Ida Lake campsite to the ‘Namgis section at the bridge over the Nimpkish River as it flows out of Nimpkish Lake.  Since this section crosses the ‘Namgis First Nation’s traditional territory, it relies heavily on logging roads (per their request/direction) and trails are limited to short sections that link up various logging roads.

Considerable trail work has been done in this section in 2019. In the text below, updates to July 14, 2019 are in bracketed italics.

From the Ida Lake campsite, head west and cross over the outlet creek flowing from Ida Lake; continue to the T-junction with the Tsulton Access Road where you will turn left (south).  Follow the Tsulton Access for 3.3 km to a creek that flows down a substantial gully (at this point you are west/upslope of Mud Lake).  Watch for the start of  the ‘Gully Trail’ on your right immediately across the creek and follow this light trail westwards up alongside the gully; it climbs steeply and involves a series of switch-backs.  The trail is initially through second-growth forest and crosses a cleared (brushy) transmission line right-of-way, before entering a stand of old-growth forest with some impressive redcedar and amabilis fir.

The gully trail eventually (seems like a long way since it is steep!) breaks out into regeneration/old cutblock and leads to an old road, Branch 25C that you follow (go right) to its end (great views southwards over Bonanza Lake from this road).  From the road end, go through 80 m of slash/regeneration to get back into old-growth and small timber for 365 m up to road 111B-19.

Follow 111B-19 (300 m) and then 111B (300 m), a U-shaped route around the head of the gully (crossing 2 creeks), to Branch 111B-16.  Turn left at 111B-16 and follow it through higher-elevation regeneration for a kilometer to its end (go right at first spur and left at second spur).

Continue in a northerly direction off the end of the road; initially NW through about 100 m of regeneration and thence through 2 km of high elevation old-growth forest past four small lakes, some smaller ponds and subalpine wetlands on the broad, rolling Hankin Ridge/plateau.  ( The route across Hankin plateau is now flagged with yellow survey tape). 

The flagged route eventually picks up a road location (pink ribbons) that leads to a recently built road with a cross-ditch over a small creek at about 100 m.  Follow this road (124C) to Branch 124 and thence left/downhill through recent logging (now slash) down to Branch 122 which was recently re-built through second-growth hemlock stands that followed earlier logging.

Hike north on Br. 122 for 0.8 km where you will see a VI Trail sign on the left (west) side of the road that marks the beginning of a cleared trail (cleared and flagged with pink earlier in July) for 1.3 km from Br. 122 down to West Main (an old road re-vegetated with lush grass and ferns).  Go left for 100 metres or so, crossing a rotting/collapsing wooden bridge; leave the road at a bend (road widening with red alder, with VI Trail sign) and head directly downslope on a prominent elk trail (with orange TRAIL flagging) for 120 m to a recent cutblock/plantation and continue another 120 m through the plantation to road 104C3-B15C.

Go NNW along this road and then around a curve to a stream where the bridge has been removed (a short trail is flagged to a ford over the creek; complete with an elevated log to use as a ‘handrail’). Across the stream, go up the road 370 m through another recent cutblock to 104C3-B10; turn right (VI Trail sign here) and go north 2.2 km to 104C (VI Trail sign here); continue NW 1.3 km down 104C to Branch 104, turn left to quickly cross a creek and  go 500 m; turn right (NW) into the forest (VI Trail sign here) and go downslope 250 m along a recently cleared trail to the railroad.  Turn left on to the rail grade and follow it for 1.5 km to a high trestle over the Tsulton River.  Cross the trestle and immediately turn right to follow up Branch FE 2000 – about 1 km along this road, you will go sharp right around a switch-back (VI Trail sign here) where another road comes in from the south.  Continue NW past the north end of Sua Lake and turn left onto NO 1000 (VI Trail sign here on some log chunks) and follow it to a main logging road (Nimpkish [former Noomas] Main).  Jog a bit to the left and cross directly over this active main logging road and  onto an old spur road (VI Trail sign here) which you follow to near its end (VI Trail sign here).  A newly cleared trail (June, 2019, including trail markers & pink/blue flagging) fills a gap between roads, through brushy regeneration and a green retention patch within the old cutblock.  The next old road (first 100 m or so brushed out in June 2019) takes you around the south end of Theimer Lake and onto NR 5050 and then 5070 (VI Trail sign at the junction).  As you come closer to Hwy 19, at a pronounced bend turning south (VI Trail sign here and first few metres cleared), cut W through the woods to the highway.    (In 2019, active logging on the west side of Hwy 19 requires the hiker to walk N along the highway to Kilpala Main where you will turn left and follow this busy mainline to and across the Nimpkish River bridge.)  At this point, you have merged with the ‘Namgis section of the VI Trail which you will follow to Port McNeill.

Caution!  – the Nimpkish River bridge is long and narrow – do not linger on the bridge.  Off-highway logging trucks that use Kilpala Main have 14-16-foot wide loads (twice those of highway-legal logging trucks!).  You do not want to get caught on this bridge!

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